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This week, I’m talking with Amanda VanderBroek, who I interviewed about four years ago under her pen name: Leandra Vane. She’s a kinky, poly, sexually fluid woman, and we had a great conversation talking about all that’s changed over the last four years, including being outed and having to fight for the validity of her identity, facing gatekeepers within the queer and erotic writing communities, living as a bisexual, kinky person in the rural Midwest, how writing about monsters and zombies can help reveal things about the treatment of sexual and racial minorities, and a lot of other things.
- Amanda’s blog, The Needle & Bow.
- You can also see her archived work at The Unlaced Librarian.
- You can also find her on Instagram, Twitter, and Goodreads.
Mike: [00:00:00] Welcome to the human tapestry podcast, the podcast where we explore the rich tapestry of humanity through conversations about gender, sexuality, relationships, and sexual practices.
This week, I’m talking with Amanda Vanderbroek, who I interviewed about four years ago under her pen name, Leandra Vane. She’s a kinky poly sexually fluid woman. And we had a great conversation talking about all that’s changed for her over the last four years, including being outed and having to fight for the validity of her identity, facing gatekeepers within the queer and erotic writing communities, living as a bisexual kinky person in the rural Midwest, how writing about monsters and zombies can help reveal things about the treatment of sexual and racial minorities and just a lot of other things.
So let’s get to the conversation.
So it’s been four years. Um,
you’re still female. Um, you’re still writing. Erotic romances. Um, and, uh, it’s still poly and sexually fluid, but I’m sure I’m sure things have, uh, have changed some in that the last four years we talked a little before, so I, but
Leandra: [00:01:32] yeah, so I guess so 2016 was kind of the height of my sex blogging. I was blogging as the Unlaced Librarian doing non-fiction sexuality book reviews.
I was speaking at like sexuality conferences. Like I was just really out about so many things like polyamory and, uh, kink and BDSM. And I wrote a lot about pornography and whatnot. Well, then I got a day job that, uh, cared about that stuff and I live in the Midwest and, you know, I have to be vague about the details and I’m a little uppity about it, but, um, essentially like, uh, yeah, like.
I was open about it. I was out and some people found it, even though it was not to be found, it was just there and tried to get me fired from my job. So it was like a very big thing and I have chronic health issues. And so, you know, kind of threatening my health insurance was very, had held a lot of weight.
You know, it really made me question a lot of things about, you know, if I’m going to die on this Hill, it better be a good one. And that just impacted how I saw so many things, my writing, um, the, the work that I was doing with my blogging and my speaking, um, I was trying to sort of marry it professionally, um, you know, trying to bring in resources into my field and things like that to sort of give it validity.
But then I was, you know, fighting for my validity for my whole identity, because it was so tied to it. I couldn’t sort of separate it. And then shortly after that, there was sort of a big cancel thing on, on Twitter with like a lot of gatekeeping. And I completely questioned like my bisexuality and using that label and I didn’t feel validated up there.
So I’m like, okay, well, I can’t be online. I can’t be in my real life. I can’t be anywhere. And so things just sort of exploded and I sort of had a crisis for several years and I took stuff down and put stuff back up. I took stuff down and yeah, so it’s been, it’s been a time, but I have emerged from a lot of it.
I feel, um, having learned a lot and the experience is, has been very good for me. And I think I’ve come out of the other end, um, more. With more fortitude in my purpose and my work and what I want to do, because it needed Polish. There was lots of things that maybe I just said, Oh, well, that’s fine. You know, I can just let that go until well, it’s like, no, when, when you sort of have that attention on you, you, you can’t have loose ends.
You have to sort of show up and polish your work and, um, be prepared to defend it. So that’s kind of what that whole process taught me. And I’m grateful for that.
Mike: [00:04:15] Wow. So, so yeah, it was a journey.
Leandra: [00:04:23] Um, yeah. So to condense four years into, you know, two minutes, there you go.
Mike: [00:04:29] Yeah. I mean, it sounds like, I mean, I didn’t hear anywhere in there where you, I mean, I, I get sometimes wondering about the label. Especially with, like you said, sometimes people are like, I’ve, I’ve seen that you’re not really bisexual. Or if you’re bisexual, you’re transphobic. I was like, no, I, it just means I like my gender and I like other genders, but some people yeah.
But like, I didn’t hear a word of doubt in there of who you are. It was just,
Leandra: [00:05:06] yeah. And I think it’s so interesting, right? Because like, in other areas of my life, like professionally, I am totally able, like, I don’t have imposter syndrome. I can step into a room and say, you know, um, this is my job and this is my style and it’s not wrong. It’s just different from how maybe someone else in the position had done it.
And I’m absolutely fine with that, but it was, it was weird. Like, um, I started questioning a lot about my bisexuality. I’m married to. Hitman. And, um, you know, and even though I understand, like, cause you know, I have a disability and I have both visible and invisible disabilities. And so I understand the, sort of the things that come with, um, the visible side and the things that come with the invisible side.
And I had always kind of put that on my relationship that like, you know, my bisexuality had visible aspects and invisible aspects and I had always been okay with it for awhile, but then something just happened, I guess it was just since it was coming from all sides, I just was like, maybe I’m not, I take it back.
I’m sorry. But, um, but yeah, it’s really weird because it’s like, uh, inside, I’m fine. But it’s like trying to go and speak another language and no one’s speaking that language and then I’m like, well maybe I am wrong.
Mike: [00:06:23] Yeah. Yeah. I know how that feels. And um,
Yeah. It’s when you’re in one of those relationships that you can pass for
what the standard is for people. It’s easy to say, Oh, I can just hide here and not worry about it. But, um,I dunno,it’s,
Leandra: [00:06:56] It’s tricky, right? It’s almost like you, you don’t want to say anything, but, and I think it’s interesting too, because a lot of my writing, you know, has been hinged on that as well. And I’m just right now on social media. Cause I, I went away from social media forever. I’ve just logged in like literally in the last couple of weeks.
Um, but there’s kind of a big thing right now about a bisexual author being outed, um, because she wasn’t openly. Uh, queer, but she was writing queer characters. And then, um, there was a whole conversation about, you know, gatekeeping and who writes queer characters. And if you’re not out and forcing someone out in order to write or, you know, whatever.
So I think it’s also because it was like so closely tied to my creative work is kind of why it was extra sensitive because that’s always been my sort of central outlet for it or central way that I’ve explored things. So it’s just a little bit more, uh, sensitive of a
Mike: [00:08:01] spot. I can imagine. Weird. So on the one hand, if you are out, you’re going to get, you’re going to face harassment.
You’re going to face people wanting to, hating you because of who you are and identifying. So if you’re protecting yourself from that, you’re going to get hate from people.
Leandra: [00:08:26] Online. And so then it’s like, what do I want, do I want a day job? And I’m quiet about it, or do I want like personal fulfillment or loud about it? And it’s like, you take my, I guess, well, I can, I, I do now for now, but we’ll see how long that lasts, I guess.
Mike: [00:08:43] Yeah. Yeah. I’ve gotten fortunate to where I’ve gotten in a position now where I don’t, I don’t have to feel like my livelihood is in jeopardy, but I mean, it took me 40 years to come out to myself and it took me a few more years to come out publicly.
And this is the first place I’ve been where I’m like, okay, I don’t think I’m going to be in a problem, but that’s not the norm. And all I keep thinking about what we’re talking about is, cause I think last time we were talking was close to around the time of the, um, The SCOTUS decision on same-sex marriage.
Yes. And that was that fixed everything according to a lot of people. And obviously it didn’t because I don’t know, coming out, being out and being public is so tricky because like you said, you, you want to be, I don’t know how, how your process is when you first came out, but it was like, I know for me, it was like, uh, I’m tired of hiding who I am, but then several times after, and I’m in a mixed oriented marriage too.
I have a cis, straight wife. And after I came out and things were happening, there were so many times I looked at her. I was like, I just, can I go back in the closet now? Cause yeah,
I don’t know. I think that’s. That’s why I like having conversations like this because we like all of us face the struggle, all of us face issues, all of us have some privilege and all of us have some areas that we don’t. And I think we all have to eat. We have, especially nowadays we have to stick together cause it all intersects, um,
cause like, and disability cause, um, for people that haven’t listened to the last one, um, you’re, you’re disabled as well. And um, I know that was, we talked about cause that’s like part of the kink also that I don’t know if you still are, but we’re involved with, and um, that intersects with gender identity, with sexual identity, it or intersects with race for people it’s like, we all have this.
So. That’s interesting. This, the writer, is that a thing? Is that like a thing in the writing community
or I can’t keep track anymore
since you’ve been offline, I guess.
Leandra: [00:11:34] Yeah. Yeah. Um, yeah. I don’t know. Honestly, I feel like I’ve always kind of been a lurker. I’ve never really kind of like commented in the public forum of things, you know, and, you know, writing is, is like very odd anyway, because like I do a lot of polyamorous multi-partner stories or kinky stories.
And I think I talked about this in the other interview or maybe not, but like for me, that’s always kind of been more at the forefront. My kink has been much more at the forefront than necessarily my sexual fluidity or my sexual orientation. So, um, that also is kind of getting me in trouble because like, I don’t think I would’ve gotten in so much trouble.
If it was LGBT stuff, it was mostly the kink stuff and the polyamorous open relationship stuff. Um, I think, you know, even in the Midwest here, there’s a little bit more, um, advocacy and, um, education and outreach that has been done in the LGBT, um, community that is, um, showing, you know, great progress. And, um, whereas like in kink or open relationships or polyamory, um, not so much mainstream understanding of it.
So that’s kind of where I got most of the heat was from the kink stuff. And so a lot of times with my writing and whatnot, it’s like, yeah, I have, I have queer characters, bisexual characters, polyamorous characters, kinky disabled characters, but like all of that kind of comes together. And then I don’t really feel obligated to speak about anything.
Cause I’m like, I don’t know. I’m just over here on the Island. Writing weird stories that I like. And some other people like them too, oddly enough. Um, but it, it is interesting because I feel like there’s, there’s like a lot of there’s a lot of hot takes and, um, it can be, it can be overwhelming sometimes to know which seconds, which
Mike: [00:13:29] yeah.
And it’s an unfortunate side effect of the internet. I read years ago, someone said that, um,
by its nature, social media and the internet has it leans towards disagreement. And because if I agree with you, I’ll probably just click. Like, I won’t have to comment on it because everything you said, it’s cool. If I disagree with you now, I’ve got a lot to say. So it that’s what ends up being highlighted.
And then. It just divides us more and more. I don’t know. And
I’m willing to bet your writing. Um, I haven’t read, I think I did read some the last time we talked, but I haven’t read it in a long time and I’m willing to bet you haven’t done all the things in the books you write. I might be wrong, but,
Leandra: [00:14:41] um, well, I, I mean, I wrote one with zombies and stuff, so I mean, I haven’t killed any zombies lately, but, um, um, yeah, no, it is really interesting I guess, because if fiction, you know, is fiction because we can explore all that stuff. Right. We can go there. We can, you know, we can go into like these dark, gnarly places.
Um, Like, for example, the zombie book I’m talking about, um, was inspired by a real article that I read from the 18 hundreds about like, they shipped some disabled people off to the poor farm, but they also chipped some criminals there too. They were like, everybody can just stay at the port. And I was like, so literally back then, in my hometown, there was no line between disabled person and criminal.
They were the same. So that’s an idea that I wanted to run when, um, and then I put the zombies in there so we could have monster criminal, disabled person, and it was kind of a free for all fight. And, you know, the deeper that I got into that, it sounds like it sounds like too much like, well, blessed polyamorous romance with zombies and disabled people fighting.
And, but this project just like is the thing that I love the most that I’ve ever written. And I just was able to just like, go into those like gnarly places. Um, and some of that is experiences stuff that, you know, that I’ve, I’ve had, you know, come in contact with, with people that like, you know, that don’t think I should be alive or that people with disabilities should, you know, be alive or have, you know, choices and things like that.
And it’s just a way to be like, well, guess what, now I have a pistol and we’re going to go into like this weird violent place. Um,
Mike: [00:16:16] I kind of want to read this book, so
Leandra: [00:16:19] it’s called Castro and I love it. Um, but so I kind of feel that like, once you get down to that like place, and then you have somebody, you know, being like, well, do you have every single thing that your character has dealt with?
Do you have a personal background that, can you speak on this? And it’s like, well, I, you know, sort of, but I don’t know, you know, you know, where do we draw that line? And I just. I don’t know, I, I’m not trying to judge anyone because I’m a person that came to age with, uh, right before the internet. I guess I didn’t have a smartphone till I was 21 or 22, but I had my laptop before that.
And I do believe that I would not be happy without the internet. Um, as a person, you know, finding information about my wackadoo, sexuality and desires and my body and being disabled and everything like that. I found connection and I found information and I had conversations that no one in my real life was able or willing to have with me.
And so I’m not dissing the internet in that capacity whatsoever. It’s very necessary for, um, a lot of us. And I think that that’s great, but then it’s also kind of like, you can’t see the forest for the trees. It’s like, this is our self soothing thing. And it’s where we find connection. We find all this good stuff, but, um, when left unchecked, we can kind of get too deep into that and sort of forget the things that were.
Connecting us and bring us together in the first place, I think.
Mike: [00:17:48] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And I know the internet, like, especially nowadays with, with COVID and you know, everyone’s self isolating and stuff like that. Like I’m closer, I’m, I’m more connected, literally connected more connected to people on the opposite side of the world than I am with my neighbors here in town, because I see people globally over zoom and other things.
And I don’t, when I get around people in person, I get nervous, right. Because of all the things, because I have some immune system stuff that I’m like, you have to keep my distance. So it’s like, it’s different, but I kind of see where the, I can see where the resistance to people that haven’t had an experience comes from.
Like you said, like, I, I don’t know many people that have fought zombies or been a zombie, but some of my favorite books and movies are about people, you know, from the zombies point of view. Um, and, but then again, you know, especially like in erotic fiction, you get those ones that are written by the, um, you know, the 20 year old dude who writes in the novel exactly what he, he thinks a woman should be thinking about him and sex and isn’t, isn’t real.
Right. And I know that whenever you’re in fiction, you have to, even, you have to, you have to keep the, you have to keep within the rules of the world you built because yes, people can fly, but they’re not going to go do something stupid unless that’s. Something they would normally do within the rules. You know, they’re not gonna, uh, I can’t think of anything because, and so I get, you know, a trans person should have fairly real view of what trans people experience, which you can find out by talking to a trans person.
Leandra: [00:20:05] And I mean, the zombies example is kind of, you know, uh, you know, obviously exaggerated, but, you know, you know, like growing up, um, in middle school, we were supposed to read like all these diverse books with disabled characters in them. And I was just mortified. I was like, you guys have no idea. And then like, come to find out, you know, they were just written by able-bodied authors that were, you know, putting these characters in because it was like the trendy thing to do and like the nineties to have disabled characters and stuff.
And then you see that trend sort of happening again with, um, other marginalized identities now. And that’s, I think obviously what the idea is against is that, you know, if you don’t, you know, have at least, you know, if you can’t portray this in a way that is, you know, fair and, um, cause I’m not even going to say good.
Cause I mean, like there’s some stuff in that disability book or in cast from the earth about disability that is like, I don’t know, you know, this is. This is kind of a scary thought to have about disability, but as a person with a disability, I’ve had it. So it’s going to go in there. Um, so yeah, like I definitely agree that that, like, you know, you don’t want these like really bad, very obvious like inspiration porn books, um, or media out there.
Um, but then when you take it to the extreme of like forcing identities out of the closet, if that’s what they’re writing about, that’s when it gets, you know? Sure. But, so, yeah, I agree. Like I think that there should definitely be conversations around it. Um, I just found for me that social media is not the place for me.
I get very, I get very like anxious and nervous and like, I don’t know. Maybe it’s like my peacekeeper. Attitude. I just want people to get along and I just want to attend to them. And then when they’re all fighting, I’m like, Oh, I can’t do this.
Mike: [00:21:55] Yeah. Yeah. I get that because
yeah, you got to kind of, you got to pick your battles. You only have so much, like I’m thinking of a conversation I got in on it where I was like, Oh, I’ll engage with this person. But as, cause I could stay at a reasonable thing, but you know, sometimes you just like, you just can’t because it either touches nerves or it’s just, it’s just arguing for arguing sake or whatever.
I don’t know. Safety is a big part of it, you know? Like you should be able to write and not have to come out as something you’re not like you should be people in a perfect world. Yeah. It’d be good to be safe. It’s good to be safe. It’s a good to have a safe place to be able to be out, but it should also be safe to not be out if you’re not ready because sometimes the coming out is unsafe for any number of reasons, which most of them are probably none of our business.
Right. Yeah. It’s true.
Leandra: [00:23:13] Yeah. And I think that’s just really the, the, the corner I was stuck in that I was having so many issues with is how do I balance this by being, you know, having this, you know, fulfilled an out there life and putting it in my art and then keeping the stuff people don’t want to see out of my professional life when it’s like cars are already, when I became a sex blogger and everything, I didn’t care.
I put my face out there. I did videos. Um, And I was like, you know what? I don’t, I’m not ashamed of my work and I don’t see it as detrimental. Um, and I, I really wasn’t thinking about a life that I might have in my thirties when I was in, you know, when I was younger. And, um, but I don’t regret anything as of right now, I don’t regret anything.
I went through a phase where like, why did I ever tell anyone, why didn’t I just keep it a secret? Why didn’t I just have a fruit part, you know, a profile picture and everything would be fine now, but that’s not how I want to be. You know, it eats inside of you when you have this part of you, that’s so important and you can’t have it.
You can’t, you know, experience it unless it’s just all in your head. I did that for too long and I don’t want to do that again. I ain’t got time for that.
Mike: [00:24:33] So I gotta ask, cause I’m looking here and. And if this is, uh, something you can’t really go into that that’s fine. But like, I know the last time we talked, you were the unlaced librarian.
So you were a librarian, but now you’re S you’re still a librarian, but it’s, it’s different now that that’s become a more of an exposure for you or is it
Leandra: [00:25:02] yeah, I’m a, I’m a youth librarian. Uh,
Mike: [00:25:05] okay. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. You know, funny enough, um, someone I talked to a couple of weeks ago who was another person I talked to a few years ago and, um, he teaches and he teaches, he teaches sex ed to two sex ed teachers.
Uh, and he was talking about. That exact thing about, about things to reach youth with queer identities and sexual things in ways that kids can understand. Um, sounds like maybe that’s not considered a good thing everywhere where you are maybe,
Leandra: [00:25:56] right? Yeah. So yeah, it’s really complicated because I serve my community and I do, and that was like the other thing that like got me in trouble online because, um, because I did defend things.
So like just one example I can think of like, um, A few years ago when I sort of withdrew from the internet was I kind of got into a conversation about how, um, I thought like Christian sexuality books should be, you know, included in like library collections, for example. And I was like, you know, we should also have, you know, other things, but like we shouldn’t like not develop a sexuality collection without like Christian sex books or, or viewpoints.
And I was kind of called like that, that was harmful, um, in some ways, and that I was too conservative and I was like, well, I come from a conservative community and that’s what I served. And I was kind of told, well, I’ve internalized it. And I was like, well, there’s, there are things about the Midwest that I really, um, feel are valuable.
And I have values from where I came from and I don’t feel like they’re internalized anything. Um, so that was like really kind of funny because. You know, online, I’m sort of like accused quote, unquote of being too conservative or harmful, whereas in my real life, Oh no, don’t bring any sexuality books near our children.
Um, so it’s an odd place to be, I suppose. And yeah, but I do, I mean, um, not to get like too detailed or whatever, but I, uh, I, I oversee everything from birth through college, so that’s pretty wide range. And to go through that whole timeline without any sexuality information is a little,
Mike: [00:27:46] Oh, not even, not even at the high school and college level.
Leandra: [00:27:53] I include that stuff too, but it’s been contested before, but, um, but I mean, like I pride myself on having a good collection and I’m serving my community as best as I can.
Mike: [00:28:06] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, age appropriate is a thing. I mean, I’m not going to give a, four-year-old a book, a how to book on, you know, bondage.
Why not? Well, not a how to, but maybe it’s a thing of okay. Things that you can do, things that other people don’t or something, you know, if you put it in kids, kids terms, kids can understand.
Leandra: [00:28:32] Right. Cause like sex education for like youngest kids is basically like what it’s like to be a good friend. If your friend says no respect that answer.
If you feel, you know, like you’re not being heard when you’re talking to your friend, that’s not a good sign, you know, it’s like, it’s about friendship and boundaries and that’s good education for, you know, kindergarten age, you know,
Mike: [00:28:54] consent. Yeah. That grows into consent in every area of your life. Okay.
Let’s see this it’s it just, it makes too much sense burner. Anyway, it’s too sensical. It makes too much sense and it makes me uncomfortable. So no, you can’t make me uncomfortable. I make sense at the same time.
Leandra: [00:29:20] And I don’t mean to, I really try not to get into, um, a cycle of like paranoia that like, Oh, everybody hates it and nobody likes it.
And I’m it’s me against the world. And I don’t feel that way. In fact, I’m probably a little too naive. That’s probably why I got into so much trouble because people were like, why are you putting all this out there? You have to know that people don’t like it. And if you don’t expect somebody to say something, you shouldn’t have said stuff.
And I’m like, well, I guess I just figured we could all get along. But, um, so I’m a little naive in that. Um, but I dunno, I’m becoming more paranoid as you can see, uh, not wanting to be on the internet. I’m still trying.
Mike: [00:30:03] I mean, all I got to say is I see a bunch of courage and things you’ve have done with it. So keep going as far as you can. I mean, it takes, it’s all kinds. You’ve got some people that can handle the activism and handle the I can handle is even not even the right term, but you know, people that are willing to deal with having it all thrown at them and, and have whatever traits it takes to be able to deal with that and be activists in a very open in your face sense to push change against hard resistance.
Leandra: [00:30:47] Actually something that was really good for me was to realize that that may be not where I am. Like, I’m a word, like a, I’m a librarian. Like here’s some good books, here’s some good conversations. Here’s some resources, that’s more my, my thing. And so that’s why I’ve really wanted to focus mostly on my writing and my message instead of doing so much, um, necessarily like sex educator outreach work, because I found that that isn’t a good fit for me and that’s fine.
And like, um, you should definitely, you know, do what you’re you’re best at and, and play to your strengths. And so realizing that was also really important for me too.
Mike: [00:31:24] Yeah. Yeah. Cause they say we also need the, the person that just is there and living their lives and showing a good example and you know, is kinky and still a human being.
Who’s a nice person who you can get along with and. Go out for coffee, you know, and both of those are okay. Being bisexual and only liking two genders. Uh, I believe they need to open their minds more, but you know, being straight is okay. Being SIS is okay. Being trans is okay. Yeah.
It’s all. Okay. If you at least acknowledged that the other people still have a right to exist and are just as much a person
Leandra: [00:32:24] I don’t know, want to be heard.
Mike: [00:32:26] Yeah.
Yeah. Yeah. And I guess that’s what the, a lot of maybe the resistance with the writing stuff is too, is like, Cause I think, I mean, and it sounds like that’s what you’re doing. It’s we have to get, you want to give voices to the people that are marginalized, not, not be the voice, but give them the voice. And neither one of us can speak to what it feels like and what it’s like inside of a trans person.
But I can speak to what a trans person, how a trans person explained it to me. And if I, if it’s in your fiction, I mean, it’s probably harder to get a zombie to explain how they feel, but it’s, you can,
I think I’m going to read this book. I read another book once years ago. That was not, it was not, uh, it was not a neurotic or romance. It was just a zombie novel, but it was from the point of view of the zombie and. It was really good. So, um, and I think if you write it well, it’s, someone will have maybe gain insight into what someone else is experiencing.
Leandra: [00:33:52] yeah. And like some people ask me, like, why did you put zombies in it? Like it, you could have just written like a realistic sort of fiction. And for me, like in my art and things, I’ve just always gone to the paranormal. I need ghosts. I need, I need the angels or zombies or whatever. But I also think that that’s like another filter because honestly I’m not saying like in throughout history, there was never happy endings for disabled people.
There certainly were. But, um, for me that still grazes a little too close, you know, when I try to do research, um, the scant research it’s available in my. Um, hometown or in my area, because I’m very much so writer of, of my location, of where I’m at, um, because that’s really important to me, but, um, you know, I, I find so many, you know, sad, broken stories.
And so I guess for me to sort of transform that into fantasy is also something that’s sort of necessary. Um, but it lets me go to the, to the places I need to go. So I’m really grateful that it exists.
Mike: [00:35:01] I mean, it kind of gives it, it lets you introduce those other things in a context of fantasy. So people can kind of come at it instead of having to come directly at it, they can kind of come around it of, Oh, it’s the MBAs.
And also this, um, I don’t know if you’ve seen the, um,
Oh my gosh.
It’s just Europe, Frank, on what it’s called. Hold on. Oh my God. Thank goodness for the internet
Lovecraft Country. To see that show. It’s a it’s, um, it’s by Jordan Peele and we’re watching it and it’s amazing if you ever know his stuff, he does the same thing with racism. He comes from a horror movie. And then all of a sudden you’re like faced with the reality of racism in our country. Um, you know, his two movies, he did, he’s done the Twilight zone and he has it in there.
And this is like that it’s Lovecraft Country is Lovecraft horror in Jim Crow era. So you just have these people dealing with Jim Crow is a fact of life and also like monsters attacking them. So, you know, and it works, it works. That’s, you know, I’m a huge, I’m a huge horror fan. So if you show me something with zombies, I’m probably going to read it and enjoy it.
And then, and if I get a bonus of finding out other cool things about people, um, I know of several offers, authors that do that. Um, one of my wife’s favorite authors is, is, is all about that. She writes, um, a world of zombies and where. Animals of all kinds and stuff like that. And the main character is Polly and kinky and, um, yeah.
That’s awesome. Yeah. So yeah, I love it. And takes, takes talent to write that takes guts to be out with it. So, yeah, I mean, I’m impressed. Sounds like you’ve had a good journey. I mean, it’s really interesting cause it’s like, um, you know, this is all about people’s all of these concerns I’ve been having are mostly about, you know, people’s journeys of discovering who they are and where they are and stuff.
And like, I think the last time we talked, you would kind of mostly settled into who you were, who you are and you know, where your identity is. And, um, How you fit and it seemed all fine. I don’t, it seems like we didn’t really have much conversation about you doubting where you were on much of it, but how you fit in the world with that now seems to have evolved a lot, which is cool.
And I guess the timing was really good. Cause it sounds like I’ve cut you right before and right towards the end of a big chunk of that journey.
Leandra: [00:38:36] Yeah. If you’d caught me like last year, I would have been like, no, never
Mike: [00:38:39] again.
Leandra: [00:38:44] I’d probably talk to you. Just it’d be like, I am, I am not a person. I don’t do anything. I sit at home and, and look at the law. I swear I don’t do any. No, you know, it’s just like anything you can say can be used against you.
Mike: [00:38:58] It’s true. It sounds like last year spending last year preparing for this year for the rest of them, because most of us now spend our time inside.
Staring at walls, so,
Was there any other, so are you doing conferences and stuff now, or are you pretty much just kind of doing, doing your new blog and doing your books stuff, but
Leandra: [00:39:34] yeah, I don’t know. I, um, obviously with the current pandemic, the conference, uh, horizon has dried up a bit. Um, I think that like, well, and my big thing was coming back to, um, my, my writing and my work, because I thought about like, you know, like I’m going to launch like a YouTube channel.
I’m gonna do a lifestyle thing. I’m going to do all this other stuff. I’m going to start a psychology blog. Like it’ll all cover up all this month that I’ve written and nobody will ever know. And I just realized that, like, I wasn’t happy doing any of that. So I’ve really like focused in, on, on some projects that are really important to me.
And also like the long vision for it. I think one of the reasons that I was so gung ho to get everything and do everything was because, you know, I grew up with a disability. I’ve had a billion surgeries, you know, um, living with chronic issues really puts an urgency on things like, you know, I don’t know if I’m going to be healthy enough to have enough energy to do this.
Um, for example, I had, uh, uh, like I want to make an independent film, but I knew like the research and the shooting and the editing was going to take, like, this project is going to take like three years. And so I never wanted to do it. I was scared because I was like, what if I’m not well enough to finish it?
And that would break my heart. So I had all these projects that I never really went after because of the longevity and like really getting down deep into things. And so now I think that. That I’ve sort of like, sort of calms the whole thing where it really is like, okay, you know, other people’s opinions, you know, get feedback and everything like that, don’t be delusional.
Don’t be like, Oh, nobody else matters. Like, listen, but like, don’t let it blow you off your course. And so I’ve really settled into, what’s really important to me. Would your, you know, like a lot of my writing projects and just working on that and also my career, because my career is important too, but it’s, um, I am drawing a bigger boundary between those two things.
Um, but I’m trying to do it in a way that’s not drawn out of shame or trying to, to validate myself or like begging for approval. It’s just, no, this is the best decision for me and my life and how I’m going to be happy and how I’m going to grow the most. So I think that’s been the biggest thing and it’s been awesome because it’s like I can do the work that I want to do and I can invest.
The time and, you know, it’s, it really comes, it’s kinda more of it, but it came down to, you know, would I rather die in the middle of the project that meant a lot to me, or would I rather finish seven projects? That didn’t mean a lot to me. Well, I would rather go for the one that does. So I think that shift in perspective has also impacted some things.
So I’m really focused mostly on my writing now and, um, which is why I was glad to have the needle in bow. Cause I mean, I love the only side brand and everything, but you know, it is my profession and I do want a bit more of a, of a boundary between my writing and my profession. So the only side brain still exists.
It’s an archive and I’ll probably contribute to it every once in a while. But, um, my writing and all my creative stuff and maybe some film work and everything will be through that and it feels a lot better. So. That’s cool.
Mike: [00:42:58] I’m checking it out now.
Yeah, yeah. That boundary of sometimes you don’t live to work. You work so you can have a full life. And it sounds, I mean, it’s, I don’t hear that you hate your job or hate your, what you do for a career. It’s just, there’s another, there’s different passions that you bring to your writing in here, and I’m sure your experience as a librarian, it’s gotta be helpful when it comes to, and especially like books and how they work, because that’s a whole thing in itself.
And that’s cool. And, you know, you said you’re not really involved in sex education, but. Yeah, kind of our
way of fiction.
Leandra: [00:44:02] Yeah. And I have a couple of non-fiction projects. The film is actually a non-fiction kind of education. So I’m not, I’m not, I’m not diving away from it completely. But, um, I also think like that was the other thing, like, um, when I started sex blogging, everybody’s like, you have to be a sex educator.
That’s, that’s the only way it will be valid. And so I like really pumped that, but I was like, I’m not really happy doing that. I’m a writer. Like I would rather write fiction. I’d rather focus on these other projects. And so I think that that was a bit of an identity thing. Once again, just kind of like, uh, I don’t know, searching for that validation, like, please take me seriously.
I swear. But it’s like. Yeah. Uh, I don’t need to ask that for validation. Like, like my work is valid, no matter, like, no matter what you think, so I’m proud of your work and that’s the thing, at least looking back, um, the stuff I did put out there and publish, I took down a lot of blog posts. Cause I thought they were a little too personal, but as far as my published work, my short stories and my fiction, I’m proud of all that work.
And so at least I was able to stay true to that, but I think everybody has to navigate that, right. Like in society and that layer of social media and, you know, approval and, you know, picking your battles and just where you fit in is going to apply to everybody and all artists of all stripes have to deal with that.
And so I think that’s just kind of part and parcel of being an artist.
Mike: [00:45:29] Yeah.
Yeah. Cause you, you have to be your true self or you’re not going to like. If you, if you just say, I’m going to write this thing and do it this way, because that’s what people expect of me. Um, like the creative process is, is bringing yourself into it. And if you can’t be free to do it, then you’re not being, you can’t be as creative.
Leandra: [00:45:58] Right. Or you see like, um, you know, YouTube artists that like get billions of subscribers. And then they’re just empty hollow shows because they were just doing shallow entertainment or things that they didn’t really want to do, but it got clicks, it got clicks. And then now they’re beholden to that, you know, that thing.
Yeah. And they’re not really happy. And so. It’s a, it’s a fine line. Right? Cause then there’s a lot of artists that need to hustle because you know, that’s how they pay their bills. And I tried that for a while, but I realized it’s not, you know, it’s not what I want to do. And I totally respect people that, you know, do do the hustle and make it work, you know, um, be your own boss and, um, put that work out there because it’s vicious.
It’s hard. Um, but I’m really happy that I found a career that I really enjoy as well as being able to do my art. So I really couldn’t ask for anything better. Yeah.
Mike: [00:46:51] Yeah. Some people thrive in that stuff, but
Leandra: [00:46:56] I don’t, I couldn’t imagine like being like, Oh, the lights are going to get shut off. If you don’t write a story, I’d be like, I can’t even read a story.
I want to write, like I can’t
Mike: [00:47:04] do that. Follow the formula. No, this isn’t my formula.
Yeah. And I mean, do you grow in your craft, but. You’ve got to grow into your, your craft, not someone else’s definition of your craft almost sounds like how you, how gender and sexuality and I don’t know life. Okay.
All right. So you have like a it’s sounds like, even though you’re not doing as much, you’re doing a lot.
Leandra: [00:47:52] I was like going
Mike: [00:47:53] through the things here is like, you’re still doing your full-time work and working in your community, your local community. You’ve got a, um, a short story collection coming out. You’ve got a film project you’re working on.
Leandra: [00:48:08] Yeah, I think, um, I think I have too high standards for myself sometimes.
Like I just need to go stare at a wall. Yeah, I do a lot. And that was like the thing, cause this year, like on top of everything, I’ve been sick. So I, I dealt with like a really big, gnarly medical thing this summer and like, felt like ridiculous. Cause I wasn’t doing anything and I’m like, okay, well your leg almost fell off.
So, you know, give yourself permission to just like not, but I don’t know. Maybe that is something I just feel, I just feel like I always need to be like doing stuff, I guess. I don’t know. It’s and that’s the chronic illness thing too is like some, you know, I don’t know, some days I’m gonna wake up and have a flare up and I’m going to be, you know, running on bare minimum stuff for three or four or five days if not longer.
And then so when times are good, I’m like, we gotta go, we gotta get stuff done. Like we’re here now. So let’s do it. So I don’t know about that, but
Mike: [00:49:10] we’ll see, that’d be cool. Cause, I mean, I guess it sounds like if nothing else, that’s giving you the ability to really be able to understand yourself and where your capabilities are.
Like, I know I can do this much today and that is all. And I know like a lot of people with chronic illness, it’s a, you know, the concept of the spoons is like, this is how many spoons I got today. And when I’m done with my spoons, that’s it. And I don’t know. Does it feel like maybe that’s helps you do more because you know, when you can, or
Leandra: [00:49:48] yeah.
And I’ve gotten better about standing up for my myself, like, um, being able to say like, you know, I am going to take the morning off work or I am going to wait to edit this till, you know, I’m feeling better because I know it’ll be better quality. Right. Like I can just like write something when I’m pushing myself.
Um, On survival mode. It’s not going to be that quality that I’m looking for. So, and the perk of that is that I get to take care of my body and rest and feel a little bit better. So I’m learning that that’s a good for me to do so, so yeah, it’s all like learning and trying to help other people too. I think that’s a big part of it.
Um, sort of like moving on, like, I was really focused on trying to figure out about myself and now I’m wanting to help other people and, and just realizing, you know, how I can best do that because I’m not this kind of person that can just go do this. So I’m going to do this and focus on this so that it can help others.
I don’t know. It’s kind of all complicated.
Mike: [00:50:56] Yeah, well, life’s complicated, but it sounds like, I mean, it sounds great. Like seriously, I am, I admire your courage and your willingness to keep stepping out and doing the things, especially like, it really would be, it is easy sometimes to just be like, I’m going to go hide and just stop and not do any of this.
And you’re, you’re still here and you’re still doing good things, so,
yeah, sure. Um, so is there anything in particular? Well, I guess before I, is there anything else that we haven’t talked about that is this, do you want to
Leandra: [00:51:47] I don’t think so. I think we touched on a lot of
Mike: [00:51:48] stuff. We did. We did. We covered a lot. Is there anything like, um, cause you’ve got your website, needleandbow.com, um, is that where people would be able to find out too when, when your book is released?
Leandra: [00:52:01] Yeah. I just released my newest short story collection, um, like two days ago.
So yeah, I was going to wait a couple of weeks, but then I’m like, no, we’re doing this now. So here you go have a book. Um, so yes, that collection is out is called a body beneath light and it is a very short, short story collection, but they all have our erotic romance stories that take place in or around a museum.
So. Cool. Very cool. And it has a range of pairings pretty much any pairing you could imagine there’s seven stories, so,
Mike: [00:52:32] okay, cool. So maybe this will be a couple of weeks before it, after we recorded that people will hear it, but we’ll definitely, I’ll drop a link in there too, so people can go get it. Um, And then know what the next thing is going to be your film project?
Leandra: [00:52:48] No, my film project is going to have to wait. I’m actually going to have, like, I planned to spend actually like a solid two years just researching. Oh, wow. So yeah, this is going to be like a very in-depth process. Um, but I am planning. I still have more fiction projects in the works that I’m going to put out and a couple of non-fiction projects, so yeah.
Oh yeah. I’ll be, I’ll be here. Uh, I don’t think I’m going anywhere. I was even thinking about it, like in 2020, I think I had three books that had my short stories in them come out and then I had my own short story collection. So for not doing anything this year, I guess I kind of did. So
Mike: [00:53:32] it’s funny how the times you don’t do anything or the times you get more done sometimes.
Yeah. So, yeah. All right. And, um, Yeah, so P uh, other than needleandbow.com, is there any where people can find you or is that the best place to go?
Leandra: [00:53:49] That’s the best place? Um, depending on my mood, I might be on Twitter, @Leandra_Vane, needleandbowofficial is my Instagram page.
Mike: [00:53:58] Okay. Very cool.
Awesome. Well, thank you. Thank you again for coming back and maybe we’ll chat again in four more years.
Leandra: [00:54:07] Yeah. Thank you. No, it should be like every four years. I think that’d be interesting to see how people change and evolve because like, I feel like a lifetime happens in four years.
Mike: [00:54:17] It’s true. I have been really amazed by how much people have grown and that what seems like a short amount of time.
So. Cool. Right. Well, thank you, Leandra. Thank
Leandra: [00:54:31] you so much.
Mike: [00:54:34] Thanks for joining us today, if you haven’t yet be sure to subscribe, so you don’t miss all the great conversations I’m having. You can listen or subscribe on the human-tapestry.com website on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, the iHeart Radio app, or your favorite podcast place. Be sure to leave us a review and maybe share the podcast with a friend or a couple of hundred.
The Human Tapestry podcast is all about starting a conversation. So get in touch with me. You can contact me at the website human-tapestry.com, on Twitter at @HumanTapestry, or on Tumblr at humantapestrypodcast. We’ll talk again next time.